By Madison Blair
Photos by Lauren Winter
What starts out as a sketch, flour and icing eventually becomes Consuela Dambrino’s elaborately decorated cakes and cookies, each one as colorful as it is complex. The key, the Hoover baker says, is patience. The Great British Baking Show playing in the background doesn’t hurt, either.
Consuela’s works of art look as if they have been taken straight from your favorite baking show. From brightly colored birthday cookies to unicorn cakes covered in sprinkles, she treats her desserts as her canvas. The visionary behind Aunt Red’s Desserts originally started baking as a way to continue a family tradition.
Her father worked as a lineman in a small town and took decorating classes at the local library to learn how to make his birthday cakes. Not too many years later, Consuela was following in his footsteps. Twenty-one years ago, she and a friend signed up for a cake decorating class at the local Michaels, and the rest is history. Now that she’s been creating confections for over two decades, baking and decorating desserts is second nature. Not only has Consuela continued her family tradition by baking her two daughters’ birthday cakes every year, she has also turned her hobby into a business.
Consuela started her baking business after losing her job in the late 2000s. “At first, it was a hobby,” she says. Then it turned into wanting to do something with the extra time she then had as a stay-at-home mom. From there, Aunt Red’s Desserts was born. The name stems from her nephews’ nickname for her.
“My name is big. It’s not common, and it’s a mouthful,” Consuela says with a laugh. Aunt Red was the easier alternative for her young nephews, aptly named for her red hair. In the beginning, Consuela’s process was much about trial and error. Though the final touches may not seem like the most important part of the dessert, it’s all in how you execute the recipe. “It’s more than just the basics,” she admits.
“The more you do it, the more you’ll learn what rules to break, and you’ll gain confidence.” Now, Consuela bakes for showers, engagements, birthdays and more. Of the many projects she’s done throughout the years, her favorite designs are her more recent ones.
“Recently, I got to do the new boho trend on a collection of cookies, so that was fun. [I also did] the Dr. Seuss cake for Christmas,” she says. That Dr. Seuss cake looked like a scene straight out of Whoville, too, with colorful cutouts of the Grinch, Max and Cindy Lou contrasting with smooth, white buttercream.
The actual process for cookies takes much longer than one might expect, about two to three days for Consuela to complete a cookie order. It requires more than rolling out cookies, baking them, then coating them in icing. The key is to let them dry in between each step. “There’s a lot of waiting,” she says.
On the other hand, each of her elaborately designed and decorated cakes takes about a day. Oftentimes, Consuela finds inspiration for her customers’ orders through something as simple as the napkin design. “[The clients] give me the napkins or pictures of the decorations, and we work together, and I’ll send them back the sketch and talk them through it,” she explains.
Sketching comes in handy for more complex orders, but most times, Consuela is able to visualize the design in her head. When she’s not baking, Consuela is thinking of ideas for future orders. She finds inspiration everywhere and loves scrolling through Pinterest to find new ideas to try out.
Throughout her 21-year career, Consuela has noticed that her business has become much more creative. When she first started out, the majority of her orders were simple sheet cakes. Now, it’s tiered, beautiful designs of buttercream. “It’s gotten more artsy, which is okay, because this is my craft. This is my hobby,” she says.
But she’s not in it alone. Her daughters, Kinsey and Josie, help out by cleaning dishes and base filling cookies. Her husband, Joe, assists in delivering orders. And of course, they are rewarded for their help with warm cookies and scraps cut off the cakes.
“If they’re not still hot out of the oven, they don’t eat them,” she jokes. No matter the project, Consuela’s favorite part of baking is looking back at past creations. “When I’m in the throes of it, nothing ever quite lives up to what I imagined,” she says. “So, much later when I’m flicking back through the pictures, I’ll go ‘Oh, I must have saved that on Pinterest—oh no, wait a minute. I did that.’”
As she looks towards the future, Consuela strives towards having consistent orders and growing the business through a strong social media presence. She hopes that her business will continue to connect her to more people in and around the community. “I really like getting to know clients and be a part of their special events,” she says.
Consuela’s creations can be found on her Facebook page, Aunt Red’s Desserts, and orders can be placed by messaging her on Facebook @auntredsdesserts.